The Churchill Archives Papers were inscribed onto the prestigious International Memory of the World Register in June 2016. The collection is the personal archive of Sir Winston Churchill, assembled by Sir Winston during his long life and career, comprising of his personal, public, political and literary correspondence and papers, including his drafts and annotated notes for his celebrated speeches and broadcasts. The collection is held Cambridge University’s Churchill College, in the Churchill Archives Centre. Here the Churchill Archives Centre’s Director, Allen Packwood, explains the significance of the collection and why it sought recognition as part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World.
UKNC: Why did you put the Churchill Archives forward for UNESCO’s International Memory of the World Register?
AP: The application for inscription seemed a logical extension of our inclusion on the UK National Register in 2013. The collection is used by scholars from around the world and has featured in exhibitions in North America and Europe. A commercial agreement between the Sir Winston Churchill Archive Trust, which holds the papers on behalf of the British Nation, and Bloomsbury Publishing means that a digitised version of the Collection is now becoming available in overseas universities and research institutions, with a related free site available to all schools. The UNESCO Register is a very significant benchmark that will help to further raise the profile of the collection and so encourage its use to support education, research and scholarship at all levels.
UKNC: What makes this collection of global significance?
AP: Winston Churchill enjoyed a long public and political career that often placed him at the centre of international events, and never more so than during his time as Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War. The collection includes his personal correspondence by letter and telegram with President Roosevelt, Marshal Stalin and others, as well as his drafts and notes for his celebrated wartime broadcasts and speeches. President Kennedy, quoting Edward R Murrow claimed that Churchill had mobilised the English language and sent it into battle, and his words have certainly endured and continue to be quoted (and misquoted) by the world leaders of today. Churchill also wrote his own multi volume histories of the times in which he lived, which have been influential in shaping his legacy and the way we view the modern era. The collection therefore provides a fascinating window on international events from the Boer War to the Cold War, through the lens of one of the most important figures of the period.
UKNC: How, if at all, has being inscribed onto the Memory of the World Register supported your work at the Churchill Archives Centre?
AP: The inscription is a badge of honour that the Churchill Archives Centre is proud to wear. We are dependent on the support that we get from philanthropic trusts and individuals, and inscription helps us to prove the value of our core collection to potential patrons, donors and supporters. It validates the purchase of the collection for the British Nation in 1995, and helps the Sir Winston Churchill Archive Trust and the Churchill Archives Centre make the continuing case for the resources needed to preserve and provide access to this unique and important resource.
UKNC: What’s next for the Churchill Archives Centre?
AP: The Centre continues to collect the personal papers of those who have played a prominent role in British political, public, military or scientific life in the Churchill era and beyond.